I admit it: I have overextended myself this year. I committed myself to far too many things professionally and personally, and the random wrenches that get thrown in the works of life have not stopped popping up. I have had many days where I was tempted to cry “uncle.” I have definitely learned my limit of professional commitments , both in my job and in the ALA/YALSA world. I really needed this winter break to catch my breath. It’s been good already, and I know I will see everything to term. Yet, I can’t let myself forget that feeling the next time I need to say yes or no.
Despite all of that, I am proud of the work I have done so far this school year. Literacy has been a larger-than-usual initiative in my school this year, and teachers have come to me for assistance with this. In the past three years I have been at my job, I rarely had the chance to work with an entire class on book selection. I would do no more than two book talks a year, and everything else was done via walk-in reader advisory.
This year, I started with one teacher and the word spread. By the time we left for break last week, I had done book talks for all five to six sections of grades 9 – 12 English for six different teachers, and for one of those teachers I have done two sets of book talks. That is a huge increase from the past!
I have been trying to tailor the books to each class by doing a pre-visit survey asking about their interests, books they liked, books they didn’t, etc. Then, based on info the teacher provides and my surveys, I pull books currently checked in to highlight.
It is the “currently checked-in” that gets me. I have not been able to use some really great books because they are never on the shelves. Some of the teachers have told me not to worry whether it is available or not, but I feel like I am doing a disservice to the students if I say, “This book is AMAZING, but you can’t have it today. We’ll have to put you on the waiting list.”
I’ve been trying to add variety to the talks by using book trailers, pre-written intros, reading a few pages, and improvising what I say if it is a book I know well enough. (Often, even if I have read the book, I need to write notes before so I don’t get thrown off.)
How do I know I am making an impact? Sometimes I have the students fill out a ticket to leave to assess. But I have found other methods provide more information. What did not get checked out by the time the students return to class? Circulation is another piece of data. Leviathan did not circulate well last year. This year, it checks out every time I mention it. If I talk a series, are the books further in the series circulating more? The Looking Glass War series used to sit on the shelves, but this year all the books rotate in and out.
Nothing can top the personal feedback I have received, though. I have one reluctant reader who now comes in every two weeks to check out two Orca books now that he knows they are written on a lower level but aimed at teens. I hope that later in the year, I can get him to try something more, but in the mean time he’s reading steadily in a way he had not before.
The teacher who I have done two sets of talks for emailed me after I completed the first set. She wanted to tell me that when her classes returned to the room after the talk, everyone was happily reading. She said that in her 20 years of teaching, she had never seen so many “at-risk” students find books that they were excited to read. One male teacher who team-teaches with her for a class that has a lot of special education students stopped in a few weeks ago to tell me that I really inspired those students to read. These students had previously dug in their heels and refused to read. A lot of them had never been exposed to the books they could relate to and just thought all books were boring. Now, those same students are finding books written at a level they can read, about teens who are relatable.
That is what makes it all worth it. That is one of many reasons I love my job.
A teen blogger posted on YALSA’s blog this weekend about what makes a great YA librarian. While the comments have been quiet on the post, I’ve seen a good amount of discussion on Twitter. I can honestly say that I don’t have colored hair, and we don’t offer a large amount of activities in our library. I think it could be debated how many and what type of activities a school library can provide (especially in a school of 2700+ students and only two librarians and one assistant) but I do believe we have worked hard to provide things for our students. The other attributes do match me, and I believe I am a pretty darn good YA librarian.